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Court grants order to keep Texas baby on life support

Posted at 8:54 PM, Jan 03, 2020

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - A Texas appeals court on Friday agreed to delay a judge's ruling that would have allowed a hospital to end life-sustaining treatment for an 11-month-old girl who doctors say is in pain and will not get better.

The Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth ordered Cook Children's Medical Center to not remove Tinslee Lewis from life support until it makes a final ruling in the case. The appeals court did not immediately schedule any hearings in the case.

On Thursday, a judge in Tarrant County denied a request by Tinslee's mother, Trinity Lewis, to issue an injunction that would have stopped the hospital from removing her daughter from life support.

Doctors at the Fort Worth hospital had planned to remove Tinslee from life support Nov. 10 after invoking Texas' "10-day rule," which can be employed when a family disagrees with doctors who say life-sustaining treatment should be stopped. The law stipulates that if the hospital's ethics committee agrees with doctors, treatment can be withdrawn after 10 days if a new provider can't be found to take the patient.

Efforts to find another facility to take the girl have been unsuccessful. The hospital said it has reached out to more than 20 facilities.

Kimberlyn Schwartz, a spokeswoman for Texas Right to Life, an anti-abortion group that's advocating for Tinslee, said her organization was "grateful and relieved" the appeals court had granted the emergency stay.

She said the court's action would give her group more time to contact doctors and hospitals who could treat Tinslee.

"This gives us so much hope for Tinslee," Schwartz said. "This is a prayer answered."

A spokeswoman for Cook Children's Medical Center did not immediately return an email seeking comment Friday evening.

Tinslee has been at Cook Children's since her premature birth. The hospital said she has a rare heart defect and suffers from chronic lung disease and severe chronic high blood pressure. She hasn't come off a ventilator since going into respiratory arrest in early July and requires full respiratory and cardiac support.

Lewis testified at a hearing last month that despite her daughter's sedation, she has a sense of the girl's likes and dislikes, describing her as "sassy." She said Tinslee likes getting her nails done but doesn't like having her hair brushed.

"I want to be the one to make the decision for her," Lewis said about removing her daughter from life support.

At the hearing, Dr. Jay Duncan, one of Tinslee's physicians, testified that the girl is in pain and that treatment was no longer benefiting her.

The case has become a rallying point for Republicans in Texas. Earlier Friday, state Attorney General Ken Paxton, Gov. Greg Abbott and the state's solicitor general sent a letter to the appeals court, asking it to delay the judge's order.

"I will continue to fight for Tinslee and my office will continue to use all necessary resources to ensure that she will not be deprived of her right to live," Paxton said in a statement.